Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are just like they sound, negative, random thoughts that we think about ourselves.
ANTs are often gloomy, depressing & fatalistic. They sound like: “Nobody likes me”, “It will never work out”, “I just know something will go wrong, it always does”, “I just can’t do it”!
Super helpful, right? Wrong! They are bullshit wastes of energy that often lead to self-fulfilling prophecy. As Henry Ford said, ““Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” You need to become aware of those shitty thoughts and talk back!
There are four particularly annoying ANTS that keep people stuck and cause lots of mental anguish.
ANT #1- Always and Never Thoughts
Always and never thoughts are particularly irritating ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts). These all-or-nothing thoughts are usually incorrect, but our brains are trying to convince us otherwise.
Examples of always/never thinking include:
- No one ever invites me anywhere.
- I’ll never get the promotion.
- I always do all-the-things, and nobody helps.
These ANTS are common and are frequently absolutely wrong. To crush always/never ANTS start by asking yourself, “Is this thought true? If so, what facts support this statement?”.
While your brain will tick off any number of supporting details, the truth will rear its ugly head when it can’t find absolute evidence to support its claim. Use logic to battle these annoying ANTS. Now restructure that thought into a more useful statement.
Talk back! Don’t let the ANTS control you.
ANT #2- Fortune Telling
Fortune telling is a nasty red ANT (Automatic Negative Thought).
This ANT likes to catastrophize the future. It is a fictional story you make up in your mind, and often worst-case scenario thinking. Fortune telling looks something like, “I have a headache, it must be a brain tumor!”. It’s not a brain tumor!
This thought gets you all whipped up and puts you into fight or flight. Fortune telling does nothing good for your mood or blood pressure! You must CRUSH this ANT immediately!
People believe that if they can create the worst-case scenario in their mind, it somehow will protect them if it actually does happen. This is complete crap! Inventing future worry is a complete waste of our energy and does zilch for our attitude, stress level, and overall mental health.
Talk back! Tell this ANT to pound sand and stop worrying about the future. Be present in the moment, get back into your body and out of your head.
ANT #3- Mind Reading
Mind reading is a rotten red ANT (Automatic negative thought). It happens when we believe we know what others are thinking about us, even though they have never said so!
Mind reading thoughts sound like:
- She hasn’t texted me back, she must be mad at me.
- I just know he doesn’t like me.
- Everyone is staring at me and thinks I’m fat and lazy.
In all honesty, in my younger days, this ANT is one that got me hung up all the time and probably caused me to ruin a few friendships. I made assumptions that just were not true. Mind reading is also seriously ego based. We are reflecting thoughts and feelings that are coming from some deep-seated issues that likely need some exploration.
You can’t read anyone else’s mind. You can’t tell by the way someone looked at you that they are mad or don’t like you or any other number of bullshit made up thoughts floating through your skull. Just remember that everyone is going through something you may know nothing about. Let’s assume good intent until we have clear evidence to the contrary.
How do you combat this ANT? Simple, ask questions. No seriously, for my passive aggressive, nonconfrontational followers, you must pull up your big girl/boy panties and ask the person what is going on. 9/10 times, it has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with the person you are projecting on.
ANT #4- Guilt Beating Guilt beating is an obtrusive ANT (automatic negative thought) that sucks the mother loving life right out of you! Guilt is a result of thinking you Should, Must, Ought, or Have to be doing anything. Moms are notoriously good at guilt. I spent most of my kid’s childhoods living with guilt over everything! I should be working, I shouldn’t be working, I must cook healthier meals, I ought to be reading to them more, I must work out, I have to lose weight, I should be…. You get the picture. Guilt drove me to do SO many things I didn’t want to do. And doing things you don’t want to do causes you to become resentful, another rotten thought. To combat guilt beating you must (ha, just joking!) first decide what you actually want to do. Next you can rephrase statements to make things more palatable. You can say, I want to, or it is in my best interest to, or it would be helpful to. Guilt is a seriously unproductive emotion. Crush that ANT!
CRUSH Your ANTS!
Your strategy for combating this ridiculous self-sabotaging mentation: Talk back!
You don’t have to listen to those thoughts. They are just thoughts. You get to decide whether or not you want to keep thinking that way.
So, notice when you hear yourself start saying negative things and write them down. Next, flip the thoughts into something more possible. You don’t have to go to the extreme, you do have to believe your newly created thoughts.
What are your ANTs and how can you restructure them to a more positive thought? Stop believing your own imagination. Start choosing your thoughts and taking control of your mind
Yes, you can!